Inside Out

video still from “Locus of Gold” by Ellen Marie Hinchcliffe with Gabrielle Civil

To miss you is
an extraction
is not finding
what I think
I see is not
what is there
is the beauty
of your face that
turns away is
gone so I miss
what I cannot hold
this must be why
we need to go out
of view we need
to lose each other
then alone
in our bedrooms
our hands are
headlights
that round
the bend that span
the surface
of a lake rippling
in response
there is much
we cannot
fathom is what
I think alone in
my bed my body
now ink
there is no one
left to miss
what then to make
of the fish
all night that
swims through me?

 

                                 * * * * *

 

 

I’ve spent years dawdling in rooms, thinking here I am stuck inside and the world is moving past me outside, and yet I need to be inside to explain that outside, but restless I would fiddle around and think here I am being so unproductive I should be out there. So it was after a dark Minnesota winter during which I spent a lot more time inside my room than usual thinking and sinking into solitude while also rising to higher and higher levels of consciousness that I found a community of like-minded women artists at “Girls in Their Bedrooms.”

The magic began as soon as I came into the room. A small number of chairs set in a semi-circle brought me back to the Czech Republic where in the late 90s I happened upon some of the best puppet shows in cramped attic settings fit for only ten or so bodies. The Prague experience taught me art can happen anywhere, anytime, with very little. Get a small group together and you can make anything happen. Fast forward to 2014 where I am in another attic, with wine, cheese, crackers, portable air conditioning, and, most importantly, the welcome faces of beautiful women of all ages, diversity and sexual orientation as well as artistic inspiration.

At The PoppyCock, I saw and listened to Michelle Be, Gabrielle Civil, Ellen Marie Hinchcliffe, Mankwe Ndosi and Junauda Petrus present their impressions of what it is to be an artist and a girl or woman in a bedroom. The piece that stayed long with me afterward was the first, which happened to be Ellen’s video letter to Gabrielle Civil.

Part of it is because the video is a direct address, very personal (Dear Gabrielle…). Part of it is because the questions the video asks set that night’s themes in motion and started me thinking about the sampled clip in Junauda’s video of Eartha Kitt who, in talking on love, says one should not ever compromise. Do not compromise, she says, when it comes to love, no matter our age. I started thinking about that in terms of the body; and as an older female artist who has been at what she creates a long time and yet, though well trained, still doubts. Her doubt is not the same as the insecurities and uncertainties she faced when she was physically young. But love links art to the bedroom; this is what Ellen’s video seemed to say. Art and the bed are places of so much rumination and invention, but depend on time, and the allowance of time. It is there we women artists wait for something to emerge.

video still from “Art Letter (for Gabrielle Civil)”-Ellen Marie Hinchcliffe

video still from “Art Letter (for Gabrielle Civil)”-Ellen Marie Hinchcliffe

Ellen’s video is impressionistic, offering up many thoughts about self-doubt, self-admonishment, time, and how creativity is linked to letting that time move as it will around and through the body. Ellen shows how many hours she spends in a bedroom to some or no avail, but in doing so we not only laugh out of compassion but also realize she is challenging her own belief and the common notion that all that time has been time wasted. So the images of her on the bed and papers spread out before help me see the bedroom as the place she dreams, wonders, loves, resists, and surrenders. It’s where we play out desires and projections of our desires for the self to exist in relation to the world or in relation to someone else sharing that space with us. The bed is also a place to relax into as we drift away from the conscious world into the one of dreams, our bodies available to the eyes of curious strangers.

Ellen’s work started me thinking and Gabrielle and Michelle’s inspired me to consider what we read, write, scribble in our diaries. What makes us sing, cry (or not); what makes us film, stare in the mirror, dream, resist, dance around? What is that moment where we try on clothes, take them off; are we not always in a state of generation, where we piece together, we remember, try not to remember; we undo the self, pretend to manage desire, and alone, we practice survival. We create a universe in the bedroom.

I was reminded of this show again the last three nights I spent in my new bedroom in a new apartment I haven’t finished setting up. I am not used to anything yet, so my bedroom is a restless place for me now after three weeks traveling on the road and significant life changes. I have spent insomniac hours late into the morning awake in this new bedroom. All I can say is I’m a girl who’s no longer a girl; I’m a woman without being a woman who’s an artist. I understand my calling; I obey it.

I am finally the most deliberately alone I have ever been, the most unbearably free, on the verge, and yet, like Ellen’s video showed, I am still restless, afraid, uncertain, calm, patient, impatient. I am seeking. I know where I’ve been but not where I’m going. I don’t know how to feel extravagantly. I don’t relate to ecstatic, green desire, but I feel the intimacy of a long gaze. I am the hours I spend in a bedroom wondering about how the soul manifests. So I practice ways to plumb into deeper cavernous tunnels of consciousness. I am inside and outside of the body, and the art that I do is like this show, tells me women like me do, and that makes me feel less alone.

Like them I am dreaming, resisting, dancing around, feeling lush, dried up, hopeful that the solitude and the familiarity of years doing this over and over and then undoing it can still be generative; can incite subtler forms of expression. It’s in the company of other strong artist women that I find new language. Desire like art is more than survival.

It is a girl alone in her bedroom.